Translation of Metaphors and Idioms - Mission Impossible 1?

By Popescu, Teodora | The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Translation of Metaphors and Idioms - Mission Impossible 1?


Popescu, Teodora, The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education


1 Introduction

It is well accepted by now that translation between two languages is very much a matter of cultural transfer and mediation. Developing translation competence in students is intrinsically connected with learning both the source language and the target language culture. According to Nida (1964), linguistic and cultural differences identifiable between the source language and the target language are equally important, and cultural clashes between the representatives of the respective groups are more difficult to handle by the translator than the differing linguistic structures or inherent patterns. The translation activity is dependent on a sound knowledge of both languages and cultures, people's traditions, rites, beliefs or behaviours. This is the reasons why educators, especially when it comes to training translators, have to develop appropriate programmes that aim at developing both linguistic and intercultural competences in the two languages, along with proactive attitudes, as well as sound knowledge of history, economy, and politics of the countries or ethnic groups involved.

At the Faculty of History and Philology, University of Alba Iulia, there exist BA and MA programmes in Romanian language and literature and English language and literature. During both BA and MA degree programmes, students have translations courses on their curricula. However, the focus of the programme is on developing the linguistic competence, while attempting, across the curriculum, to develop the intercultural competence, through various activities interspersed in the set syllabuses. The task of the translations instructor is so much more challenging, as the syllabus provides only two to four hours per week for this course. Students also need to develop translation competence and skills, alongside linguistic competence, which is taken to represent "knowledge of and ability to use, the formal resources from which well-formed, meaningful messages may be assembled and formulated" (CEFR 2001: 109). This linguistic competence, also different from the knowledge and skills required to cope with the social dimension of language use and/or the meaning and language use that account for the peculiarities of the speaker, the addressee and other contextual features is necessary, but not sufficient.

2 Literature Review

Culture is inseparable from language, as we mentioned above. Along the same lines, Toury (1978) also mentioned that a translator is faced with at least two languages and two cultures / cultural traditions and patterns. The inherent cultural aspects that are found in a source text must be treated with utmost care in order to find the most appropriate rendering into the target language, employing the right techniques.

Although there exist very few studies on translation competence development, one should mentioned in this context, i.e. Campbell's (1998) research based on applied linguistics methodologies. He analysed translation competence of non-native speakers' translation from their mother tongue into English. His subjects were native speakers of Arabic, studying translation and interpretation at an Australian university. Following his data analysis and interpretation, Campbell designed a three-layered model of translation competence:

1) textual competence (the ability to produce TL texts with "structural features of formal, written English") (p. 73). Evaluation benchmarks are nominalizations, type/token ratios, word length, passives, prepositional phrases, etc.;

2) disposition (translators' behaviours in choosing different words when contracting TL texts). The parameters he advances are: persistent vs capitulating; and prudent vs risk-taking. Combinations of the above categories will create four types of disposition:

a) persistent and risk-taking;

b) capitulating and risk-taking;

c) persistent and prudent;

d) capitulating and prudent;

3) monitoring competence, consisting of two sub-categories: self-awareness, and editing. …

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